St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

Newly Reviewed
Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent Reviewed in this issue.

Ongoing
Louis Cameron: Heineken This digital video loop finds painterly abstraction in the wash of consumer culture. Brooklyn-based Cameron scanned a six-pack of Heineken, elongated the image to maximum verticality, then set it in a perpetual, slow scroll. With its mute, patient and intimate inspection of its otherwise mundane subject, the piece suggests an underlying elegance in the otherwise accosting cacophony of brands, advertisements and products. Through March 29 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or www.slam.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.).

Tony Fitzpatrick: The City Etchings 1993-2003 This series of line renderings of imaginary cartoon icons haloed, Virgin of Guadalupe-style, in carnivalesque heaps of urban artifacts has the intimate, serial quality of daily entries in a notebook and the imagistic content of an illuminated manuscript drawn by a dime-store comic-book artist. With its raw emotional breadth, the work, which negotiates the passing of Fitzpatrick's father, defies this Chicago-born artist's tough-guy persona. The specter of Philip Guston looms large here, manifested in a spirit of wryly internalized loss, Piero della Francesca compositions, and the form of tragicomic characters like hooded Klansmen and blank De Chirico-esque faces. Fitzpatrick adds to this surreal cast with representative symbols of a personally fabled Chicagoland — teetering skyscrapers, water towers and tangles of train track — and that region's immigrant, working-class Catholicism and weather-worn survivalism. Hands clasped in prayer and wrapped in barbed wire float above a clip-art goose or a weeping robot against a shallow backdrop of iron bridges and piled brick. Despite the proliferation of imagistic references, the cumulative effect is honorific, nostalgic and ultimately Fitzpatrick's: a small riffraff world trying to hustle away the irrevocable with the eternal promise of art. Through May 23 at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976 or www.umsl.edu/~gallery. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Funhouse Inaugurating PSTL's new location is this show of point-and-shoot digital snapshots by local writer (and former RFT calendar editor) Byron Kerman. Focusing less on aesthetics than the camera's quick ability to compose, the images extract the comic and ironic from the otherwise mundane by framing instances of the material world inelegantly confronting its natural counterpart, and vice versa. It's ultimately a one-line perspective that would benefit from the immersive suggestion of its title: a gallery-turned-funhouse through the compulsive generation of hundreds of these images, whose yield is, then, a less precious and more complex world-view. Through April 4 at PSTL Window Gallery at Pace Framing, 3842 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-4304 or www.paceframing.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Good Friday The second of two group exhibitions celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Saint Louis University's Museum of Contemporary Religious Art features work from the permanent collection that explores "the meaning of suffering, death, compassion, and unconditional love" through direct references to Jesus' last day. The show's explicit focus on the Christian tradition challenges the ecumenical spirit of the institution's identity as an interfaith repository, but one can also take the show as a point of departure for broader expression. It's a fine balance — the blend of faith-based inquiry and the secular standards of contemporary art. The show's strongest works mine this unusual context by being visually evocative, spiritually direct and singularly personal: Michael Tracy's monumental Triptych, 11, 12, 13, for instance, and Adrian Kellard's Lovers and Prayer of the Faithful in Ordinary Time. The latter, who died from AIDS in 1991, explores being a "gay man loved by god" in two eccentrically and emotionally wrought painted woodcarvings that move between the traditionally liturgical and explicitly kitsch in a delicate manner that only this space can entirely honor. Through April 26 at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, 3700 West Pine Mall Boulevard (on the campus of Saint Louis University); 314-977-7170 or mocra.slu.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

Ideal (Dis-) Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer This exhibition of canonical canvases of slain martyrs, pious virgins and other grand dilemmas borrowed from two encyclopedic museums and replaced in naturally lit contemporary galleries is a reaffirmation of the human scale. The minimalism of Tadao Ando's building design is diffused by ornate, gilt-framed compositions that date from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, the two historical extremes meeting precisely at the fragile effects of daylight on the predominantly figural pieces. Contemplative and reverent, the show fulfills its premise so well that it seems capable of providing a discretely intimate experience for each and every viewer. Through June 20 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850 or www.pulitzerarts.org. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

Locusts & Honey: New Work by Jennifer Angus In a kind of alchemical transformation, Wisconsin-based Angus pins locust, grasshopper and other bewilderingly large and intricate insect specimens in floral geometrical patterns on the walls of Craft Alliance's Grand Center gallery space, to produce delicately beautiful wallpaper patterns. The effect is something aesthetically marvelous of the purely decorative variety — trumping all the more topical curiosities that the bugs, the process of their acquisition and application and the installation's biblical allusions, evoke. With the other domestic-decorative accents of early-twentieth-century dark-wood occasional tables, jewelry drawers and display vitrines punctuating the space, what remains is a work less about fear, plague and/or bounty than about the peculiar mystery that old Americana holds. Or, more simply, how certain rooms in a home seem to have a spirit and life of their own. Through May 17 at the Craft Alliance Gallery (Grand Center), 501 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-7528 or www.craftalliance.org. Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

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